It’s About Communicating

Technology is fabulous. Can you imagine not being able to use email, scanning, faxing, pagers, wireless phones, cell phones or a PDA?

Today’s phones have a variety of ring tones—you can select different ones for different people, telling you who is calling before you answer the phone (or choose not to answer it). Some systems even announce the name of the caller; again, allowing you to decide whether you want to answer or not.

Blackberry, Treo, other PDAs, iPODs, cell phones, pagers and computers all have made us accessible within and outside of the workplace. And that may not be such good news.

Picture this: You are in a staff meeting and notice that several co-workers keep looking at their laps throughout the meeting. You are intrigued with a low-level buzzing that goes on and off. And, you wonder, can someone really be participative and productive within a meeting if he is “checking out” frequently to view his email and messages?

Or, you are in a restaurant and notice that an adjacent table is fully occupied. Each person is on a cell phone talking to someone other than a tablemate. You wonder why they go out together if they don’t seem to want to talk with each other, but to someone remotely.

Most communication pros say that the technology usage from cell phones, PDAs, instant messaging, etc., can add to stress. The constant ringing, buzzing and vibrating beckons. Better not ignore it, it could be a crisis. You end up being a slave to your technology devices.

And that’s the rub—rarely are these communications generated because of a crisis. It’s just so easy to contact someone who is connected. These convenience tools end up gobbling up more of your time than you realize.

So, how do you control today’s technology gadgets so that they don’t control you? Start with:

• Realize that every time your computer announces a new email, your PDA buzzes, or your phone vibrates, it’s probably not a crisis. It could be spam or a wrong number. You may be at your desk and able to respond within minutes…but, should you? Enabling your technology tools to interrupt you at will, may not be such a smart thing.

• Make voice mail your friend, not something that you hide behind or a device that sets up a trail that the caller has to message your Treo or call your cell. Instead, why not get in the habit of changing your message daily—letting the caller know a time that you’ll be checking your messages and returning calls.

• When you attend a meeting, attend and participate in it. Don’t take your Blackberry in—it isn’t invited. Ditto for your cell phone. You can return calls and check for messages when the meeting is done.

• Don’t create unrealistic expectations for others in the way you respond to email. Immediately responding can do a couple of things.

It may unintentionally make your co-workers look bad because they don’t respond as quickly as you do. Or, it may say that you don’t have enough work to do. Either way, it’s not a good thing.

Never underestimate the power and value of a non-technical type of
conversation. Sure, communicating remotely may be necessary at times. But, the importance that sitting down with an old-fashioned one-on-one chat, or with the entire team, can’t be overlooked.

If it comes trying to resolve a problem over email versus live conversation, the live conversation will create better results. Communication involves hearing and seeing—hearing voice tones, observing body language…and yes, hearing the words.

Try it the old-fashioned way—don’t let your fingers do all the talking.

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